Kellogg's CEO Ripped For 'Let Them Eat Cereal' Comment

Kellogg's CEO Gary Pilnick is taking some heat for suggesting that cereal is a great choice for consumers trying to pinch pennies when it comes to rising food prices. 

His remarks, made in a live interview with CNBC, caught the attention of some shoppers, who have taken offense. 

“They struck a nerve with people, many of whom likened them to Marie Antoinette’s infamously heartless — and possibly misquoted — “let them eat cake” line,” according toThe Washington Post. 

CNBC "Squawk on the Street" host Carl Quintanilla seemed to try to hint to Pilnick that his strategy may upset some people by asking if he was worried his approach may "land the wrong way," according toThe Guardian



Pilnick responded by mentioning a year-long campaign by the packaged goods company to give “chicken the night off” and promoting cereal as an alternative dinner.

“It's landing really well," Pilnick said, showing that 25% of cereal consumption is outside of the "breakfast window" anyway, according toUSA Today.

"This fool is making $4 million a year. Do you think he's feeding his kids cereal for dinner?" one TikTok user said in a video response circulating online.

Clips of the interview are popping up on social media, including on a subreddit called /NotTheOnion where people share real news that sounds like it could have come from the satirical website The Onion, according to The Washington Post

Consumers are “frustrated by spending 26% more on groceries since 2020; on social media the campaign is being seen as insensitive,” according to CNN Business.  “Cereal prices alone increased 28% since January of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In its latest fiscal year, Kellogg raised prices by 12%.”

Prices for groceries and restaurants have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic. In 2022, consumers spent 11.3% of their disposable income on food, the highest level since 1991, the Wall Street Journareported, citing data from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

“The $10 billion U.S. cereal market has seen hefty inflation in recent years, including an average price increase of 13% last year,” according to the MinneapolisStar-Tribune. “Kellogg brought the biggest cereal price hikes in 2023, raising prices 17%.”

6 comments about "Kellogg's CEO Ripped For 'Let Them Eat Cereal' Comment".
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  1. Jim Thompson from Temple University, March 1, 2024 at 10:48 a.m.

    People who grew up in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s who had cereal for dinner, must be shaking their heads in amuisement at the negative comments on social media. (Assuming that anyone sees those isolated comments.)

    Here's an idea - how about asking Kellogg's or General Mills, how many households are already eating cereal, waffles or pancakes for dinner on occasion. And then including that information in the article.

  2. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost replied, March 1, 2024 at 10:55 a.m.

    Hey Jim, thanks for reading. It's in there: “It's landing really well," Pilnick said, showing that 25% of cereal consumption is outside of the "breakfast window" anyway, according to USA Today.

  3. Jim Thompson from Temple University, March 1, 2024 at 11:03 a.m.

    Yeah, I saw that morsel. But it seemed like a throw-away in a gotcha article. My guess is that if asked again today, he would make the same point - that families should consider cereal for dinner as a viable alternative. That's not a negative even though a few seem to want to paint it that way.

  4. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost, March 1, 2024 at 11:23 a.m.

    Jim, I'd say it's more than a "few." Just this one social post has 15,547 likes (and climbing) and 800 comments, most negative toward Kellogg's.

  5. Jim Thompson from Temple University replied, March 1, 2024 at 11:24 a.m.

    Tanya, sorry, I forgot to say thanks for taking the time to reply.

  6. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost, March 1, 2024 at 11:38 a.m.

    Hey again, no problem at all!  I don't disagree with you -- I've been known to eat a bowl of Special K with a banana for dinner out of convenience more than poverty. I think my father invented the "fourth meal"... he would often end the day with a bowl of corn flakes. I only select TOTN items that have a good number of articles written about the subject. If you search for "cereal for dinner" you'll see what I mean. I think his comments just came off as insensitive given he's a high-salaried CEO. 

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